September 27, 2005

José González "veneer"

With his humble singing and low-key guitar playing, at times José González recalls the humble, low-key Elliott Smith, but thankfully there’s nothing on Veneer that makes you think that Gonzalez is merely imitating Smith’s legacy. But unlike Smith, González has a distinctive guitar sound, one that blends folk with traditional South American guitar playing. The results of this blending are sad, melancholy songs with beautiful, distinctive accompaniment. Songs like “Heartbeat” and “Lovestain” are heartbreakers of the highest order, portraying González as a man who knows how it feels to fail at love. Other songs like “Stay in the Shade” and “Slow Moves” are pretty, simple songs with even prettier guitar picking.

Veneer’s only flaw is that González’s music is occasionally too non-descript. Though he does break the monotony with a few more up-tempo songs, for the most part, Veneer never lags in its rainy-day moping. It’s a common problem with this style of music; melancholy is sometimes difficult to appreciate all at once, and it’s sometimes difficult to sustain interest when composing songs with such a simple, basic formula. Thankfully, González has polished his material, and though occasionally monotonous, Veneer never overstays its welcome, and every song on Veneer is equally high-quality. Besides, when you produce gems like “Crosses,” you can do whatever you want, and that complaint isn't really much of a complaint, it's just an observation.

All things considered, Veneer is as promising a debut as you could want. Given time and a bit of maturity, González could easily deliver great things. After all, he already has....

--Joseph Kyle

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